HAVELOCK, N.C. (WNCT) – The proposed Highway 70 bypass around Havelock will run through part of the Croatan National Forest and is causing concern among environmentalists who say it will ruin a national treasure.
The NCDOT has proposed the 10.3-mile bypass as an alternative to the stop and go through Havelock, but environmental groups concerned about the bypass’ location say it’s not worth it.
The Southern Environmental Law Group filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the construction of the bypass, calling it unnecessary, costly and illegal.
In a statement to WNCT, the group stated “…the bypass would destroy important lands within the Croatan National Forest…and there are far less costly and less destructive options, such as upgrades to the existing 70 corridor.
Mayor Will Lewis said the bypass is integral to helping Havelock grow.
“There are businesses that will be negatively impacted,” said Lewis. “We know that businesses are going to see a decrease in traffic during tourist season. But on the positive side, one of the main directions we have to grow is south toward where the bypass will be.”
The bypass will be a four-lane divided freeway with speeds up to 70 miles per hour, and it will connect Raleigh to the Morehead City port.
But some business owners are still concerned.
Commissioner Danny Walsh is one of the business owners who will be impacted, and he said he has mixed feelings.
“If it helps Cherry Point, it helps my community,” said Walsh. “If it hurts my businesses out in town, it hurts my community. So it’s a double edged sword.”
Walsh said he’s seen some communities who are bypassed continue to thrive.
The estimated cost of the bypass is $221 million.
Construction is set to begin in the winter.
Until the lawsuit is taken care of, construction on the bypass will not be able to begin.